Big government, marijuana and Dr. Frankenstein walk into a bar … sounds like a cheap joke, I know. But the joke is on us because that’s basically what Alabama got when our Republican leadership formed the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.
Let’s remember that we have a Republican supermajority in Montgomery. The GOP controls all three branches of Alabama government and has carte blanche to do, or not do, what it wants.
Look at some of the key provisions currently on the Alabama Republican Party Platform. The GOP stands for limited government, believing “that the growth of government must be curtailed.” They also “support lower and fair tax models” and agree “that business growth must be encouraged … through the elimination of all unnecessary regulations.” The ALGOP platform supports constitutional liberties such as “equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity.”
I’ve been a member of the State Republican Party for years. I ran as a party member. I helped establish the GOP as a supermajority in the state legislature. I fully support the GOP platform and the efforts of the party to promote it.
Yet I watch as Republican members of the legislature enact laws – purporting to be for the greater good – that fly in the face of their own platform. That’s exactly what’s happened with the establishment of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.
The more libertarian among us say that stodgy, old, died-in-the-wool conservatives just want to get in the way of someone following their own desires. “It’s harmless!” they say. “It’s all-natural,” they say. Just simple and non-threatening. It’s like aspirin!
Live and let live, get out of the way, you naysayers! Ganja gonna help ya!
If all that is true and medical cannabis is such a non-issue, then why is it that the Republican supermajority had to violate every principle of their party platform to make it available?
Ask yourself with all candor: If medical marijuana is harmless, then why did the GOP establish a new, fully separate and autonomous wing of government called the Cannabis Commission? A commission that has no limitations on the size of its staffing. A commission that will have its own enforcement officers, that will be clothed with arrest and investigative authority.
Did you know that the Cannabis Commission enforcement officers will have the power of search and seizure without a warrant?
Did you know that the Cannabis Commission law allows for the collection of taxes at 9% on the dollar for each medical cannabis “prescription?" It gets worse when you realize that under Title 40 of the Alabama Code, this state does not tax other prescriptions at all. But the efficacy of medical marijuana is so great that we will tax it at 10 times the usual rate!
But people need it right away, so let’s get the pharmacies stocked and ready to dispense! However, we can’t do that because marijuana is not FDA approved and pharmacists cannot dispense it. It will have to be sold at a separate, specially- licensed dispensary by a non-medically trained clerk hired off the street.
But at least there will be dispensaries nearby for everyone who needs to get their prescriptions filled! No, the law only allows Alabama’s 67 counties and 5 million residents to have just 37 licensed locations.
But if someone needs it, then just go where it is and bring it to them! Maybe not. The law says that in order to administer it, you must be approved by the Cannabis Commission as a registered caregiver, otherwise someone will have to come to your house to give your child their “medicine.”
So let’s get this straight: With the absolute assurance that medical marijuana is a much-needed thing for the citizens of the great state of Alabama, the Republican supermajority has decided to make government bigger, limit the growth of a private sector business, tax it heavily, violate basic rights in enforcing it, invade the privacy of your home to administer it, and do so in a way that is in violation of federal law and could get a pharmacist fired.
Added to all this morass is the knowledge that the Cannabis Commission is mired in lawsuits. Multiple suits have been filed claiming partisanship and a lack of transparency in the licensing process. A recent lawsuit resulted in the Commission chairman resigning from his position for allegedly double-dipping on state compensation.
What’s the real reason for doing all of this? Recent studies show that the industry is peaking with $13.8 billion in 2023 sales alone. States like Alabama have a chance to push that market share up by a projected 21% growth by 2030. This is a cash cow, but they don’t want it grown in your backyard. There is no money in that.
Let’s pretend for a minute that marijuana is FDA-approved on medicinal grounds. It’s not, but we can pretend. There are studies indicating that marijuana helps ease pain, calms seizure disorders, and adds calm to an anxious mind.
Competing studies question its effects and societal impacts. Recent studies indicate that legalization and decriminalization of marijuana has resulted in a three-fold increase in marijuana poisoning. Focusing on children alone reveals cannabis exposure increased 1375% between 2017 and 2021, with 22% of those cases landing in the hospital. It is also still off-limits to our military, and law enforcement will need to see your papers.
Truly, the Alabama Cannabis Commission is exactly what you get when big government, pot and Dr. Frankenstein walk into a bar together.